Saturday, November 28, 2009

Another Win Thanks to Dr. Phil

It's nice to know that there's now some distance between the Leafs and Carolina. Even though it's only 4 points, it's hard being thought on the same field as the Hurricanes minus Staal. That's like the Leafs without Kessel, pretty terrible. Also, their lack of Ward is pretty noticeable as well. Superiority complex aside, let's get down to last night.

It's nice to know who our scorers are since it's the same players every night. Kessel, Hagman, Ponikarovsky and Stajan. It's always these 4, except for the odd time Kulemin or White put one in the net. But that's okay, as long as we're getting the points, I don't mind where the goals are coming from. I'm truly starting to like how the Leafs look on a nightly basis - past the 10 minute mark. It's still frustrating to see the Leafs shots directly at the chest of the goalie, but for the last couple games, they've have been able to capitalize on the goaltenders' mistakes because they're putting pressure on them in close and not just taking shots from the perimeter. There have been bodies in front of the opposing teams' net that have finally been resulting in goals. Except for Blake, he just won't score.

Kessel is kinda good, has anyone else noticed this? The one of two forwards with more than 20 minutes on the ice last night, he can really play until the final buzzer. It was his goal in the first period that got the Leafs fired up and by the end of the period it was very likely that the Leafs were going to win. That's one of the very few aspects of Toronto's game that cannot be contested, they know how to make a comeback. With 4 or 5 this year (that mostly ended up with a loss in OT), the Leafs have enough character to stick in the game until we have absolutely lost for sure. Maybe soon we'll actually fight hard enough to get the first goal of the game on a regular basis - that could be asking for too much.

Few things to notice from last night's victory. First of all, I really like this Hanson guy. Yes he was on for a couple goals, but the speed he can generate even with his size is quite useful. On Hagman's winning goal, it was Hanson who dumped it in, won the footrace, qicked it into the corner for Hagman, and then went to the net after Hagman just in case there was a rebound. I haven't seen him play with the Marlies, but I can see that with the style of play he has, points just follow him around because he puts the other team in awkward situations down low. A couple minutes later, he won another footrace for the puck down low that didn't result in a goal but still shows the kid can play.

Ponikarovski was a +3 last night. With a 4 point night (1G, 3A) - he was always in the right place. He used his size in front to gain a solid position in front of Vokoun and got the puck to ricochet off of him into the net. Not the prettiest goal, but he'll take it. He's not going to reach his 61 point total that he reached last year, but this year his plus/minus is his impressive stat with a +4 on a losing team. I've been quite a critic of the guy this year because he doesn't shoot to score but as long as he can plant himself in front of the net like he did last night, he can score a garbage goal from time to time.

Luke Schenn has probably been one of the biggest disappointments for the Leafs this year. We've had a number of them with Blake, Komisarek for the first bit, Beauchemin for the first bit, Stalberg not panning out yet, etc. but Schenn's bad play is finally starting to be dealt with. His minutes are being kept small so he can get his shit together and play like the Luke Schenn the Leafs know and love. He got an assist last night and only played about 12 minutes and +1. If he continues to improve, hopefully we can rely on him the same way we've been relying on Carl Gunnarsson for the past couple games. Wearing my hockey number of #36, he's been repping it perfectly, allowing Wilson to have confidence in him enough to put him out there in all situations. He's the perfect 23 year old to have on a rebuilding team. In the 7 games he has played this year, he's a +4 and has only played one game with under 20 minutes of ice time.

I think having Gunner up with the big club will force Schenn to play like he has to. Wilson has already guaranteed Gunner's place on the team and so when Komi comes back, there's a good chance that Exelby and Finger will be fighting for Schenn's last spot on the D line.

Anyway, riding a 2 game winning streak, the Leafs have two nights off to rest up, sharpen those skates and perfect that familiar Leafs Strategy - GET IT TO PHIL!
Go Leafs Go

OH, I almost forgot. Have you seen this Stamkos kid? He's making it really hard for the rest of Team Canada hopefuls.
...Yea, these Stamkos posts are going to get preeeeetty frequent. As frequent as his goals! HA.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Bleed Blue and (Ian) White - Leafs/Caps Post Game

Sorry for the long hiatus in posts, it's been a long week with a whole lot happening. Plus I was tired of writing "yet another disappointment from our Leafers". Instead, after a crazy game against Ovie and the Capitals I can say "Finally a win for Toskala and the Leafs". What a game it was. Ron Wilson seems to have a new idea for all his disappointing players - put them on the same line. Grabovski and Blake, who have been nothing but mediocre this season were grouped together with Hagman who can dazzle at times but was a healthy scratch approximately a month ago. Grabo and Blake were brought onto the team to be our offensive strength but Blake, a former 40 goal scorer is at 2 goals right now and Grabo is at 4. The speed on this line was able to keep the Caps stuck in their zone for shifts at a time, shifts that Ovechkin was on the ice for and couldn't get close to our goalie.

When Ovechkin did get the puck, White was almost always there to shut him down or save yet another goal by blocking a shot behind Toskala. White is every goalie's best friend - other than the post, which bailed Toskala out late in the 3rd period as well. The difference between the shots that Varlamov and Toskala faced is that still, Leafs shooters are taking shots that mostly are at the crest rather than making him move laterally. Toskala had to throw himself at Ovechkin more than once to cut down the angle on him and shut him down. In the first period, Laich had a shot that, if shot harder would have been in the net because Backstrom passed cross-ice. However, also in the first period Stajan made a cross-crease pass to Kessel who couldn't finish the play and hit the post.

I still can't give the upper hand to the Leafs in this game because of the type of chances that the Caps got compared to the Leafs. When the Leafs play elite teams like the Caps, you can see how real scorers look for openings in the net, but thankfully Toskala had a great performance to shut it down. Ponikarovski, Blake and Grabovski are still shooting at the goaltender and need to make the goalie scramble for the puck.

But I digress, there are certain parts of last game that must also be discussed. For example, Beauchemin getting over 27 minutes of ice-time and Ian White's 26 minutes. This defensive pairing was on for the goal against and it was a mistake on Ian White's pinch and Beauchemin being caught with his pants down around his ankles. I have no idea what Beauchemin was doing, but he had no idea where Ovechkin was when he committed to taking Greene. Too bad the pass was wide open and the Leafs went down 1-0. I guess the argument can be made that when you're on for more than 26 minutes each, you're bound to make one or two mistakes, but that can't happen when Ovechkin is on the ice and ends up getting a wide open shot. He never misses those.

November has unfortunately been a month filled with easier teams to play against standings-wise and we haven't gotten the wins we need. Yes we've beaten the Caps but losing to Minnesota and Carolina is unacceptable. December is quite a frightening month, playing 12 teams that currently have a playoff spot. That includes both Washington and Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and most excitingly because I get to go see the game on December 19th, Phil Kessel's old team the Boston Bruins.

Something that I must leave you with, as I stated in my biases in my first ever post, is the beauty and skill that is Steven Stamkos.
Go Leafs Go.... and Stamkos.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I've Had Phaneuf Of This

Last night's game against Calgary was another disappointment. Taking 20 shots in the second period alone, there should not have been a one-goal deficit going into the third. The Flames were giving turnover after turnover in goal-scoring areas but it never amounted to a tie-game. Miikka Kiprusoff played a stellar game but nothing close to the extent that was celebrated by the game's commentators. We did with Kipper exactly what we did with Luongo in Vancouver, Niittymaki in Tampa Bay and a few other goalies this year - make them look good.

Granted, Kiprusoff played a great game and Luongo... is Luongo, but it doesn't help that our shooters play target practice with the other team's crest. Shot after shot from Ponikarovsky, Stempniak and Grabovski being placed in exactly the same place - the goalies chest. This has to stop. Poni had 3 great chances from point blank without a defenseman hindering his movement and he shot right at the 'Flaming C'. Kiprusoff is a good goalie but with shots like that, he's going to stop 19 out of 20 shots, like in the 2nd period. One thing is to celebrate a high number of shots but another is to start asking yourself why they aren't going in. Kessel, the only player on the team who has any glimmer of hope as an offensive player, is doing his job hitting post after post and taking shots from anywhere that make the opposing goalie sprawl for the puck.

That's the kind of shot that we need, shots from anywhere that will make the goalie move and get out of position. For example, on Stajan's goal last night the rebound came from a Phil Kessel shot that was taken as he was falling to the ground. He got the shot off and Kiprusoff was too far out of his net to get the rebound. Beauchemin's goal was just a blast from the point with a screen in front. Too many times, Gunnarsson or Ponikarovsky were shooting right at the goalie after he's gotten set for the shot. It's not effective hockey and it's not going to win games.

As a Leafs fan, I'm tired of using the excuse that a goalie just had a good game when really we're forcing the good game on to him. Make the goalie move, force him to make mistakes and maybe we'll win a couple games. Even against their best pairing of Phaneuf and Regehr, we were capitalizing on their turnovers with scoring opportunities but not doing anything about it. I've had Phaneuf of this.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Leafs Defensive Personalities: The Kid, The Creep and the Komi

It's been 16 games already this season, and Leafs Nation is starting to see some of the players' personalities come through in interviews and off-ice escapades. Of course, the Leafs don't have a player like Ovechkin who will drive through the arena on a golf cart or drive a zamboni through the streets of NYC, but personalities of Schenn, Exelby and Komisarek have been shining through lately in recent weeks.

First of all, earlier this week TSN showed a clip of Trish Stratus teaching yoga to Exelby and Schenn. Randomly, Garnet Exelby seemed to be as close to a yoga pro as you're going to find on the Leafs, while Schenn struggled standing on one foot without falling over. It was a fluff piece of news, but it was still a nice way for Leafs Nation to look into the dressing and to see the Leafs are in good spirits.

Schenn seems to be "The Kid" of the team, still getting accustomed to the media frenzy that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was thrown into the Leafs line-up last year and averaged over 20 minutes a game. It was like Michael Jackson skipping his childhood and always being under the spotlight. Schenn had to play like a veteran during his rookie season and now, during his sophomore year is finally playing like a rookie should. He's making bad mistakes every once and a while but can still play well day-in-and-day-out while getting used to Toronto media. After the yoga lesson, he joked around about Exelby trying to get Trish to push his butt back into position.

As I've stated in a previous post, even the name Garnet Exelby strikes fear in my heart being one of the hard hitting defensemen brought onto the team during the off-season. He may not play positional hockey but he does what he was hired to do - hit. After the yoga lesson with Trish Stratus, he gave the media one of the creepier interviews I've seen by an NHL hockey player about trying getting Trish to correct his butt's positioning. Of course it was a joke, but instead of laughing during the interview, he simply had a smirk on his face earning the nickname "The Creep".

Komisarek, or for this piece "The Komi", showed his personality during a post-game interview after playing the Montreal Canadiens. He was speaking in regards to all the booing that rained down on him during his second game in the Bell Centre this season. The Habs fans were relentless, letting him have it for leaving them for their rivaling team. His response was to say something along the lines of "If they're booing me after I left, I must have been doing something right while I was here". Yea Komi, that'll shut 'em up. This kind of comment is what the Leafs need. Komisarek's arrogant personality is one of competition and the love for winning. Although the Leafs are struggling, this kind of talk from Komisarek shows that his competitive spirit is going strong.

Too bad he's out for 3 weeks. Let's see what kind of personality Carl Gunnarsson will bring to the team while Komi's injured.
Go Leafs Go!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The End of Our Roll

We really shouldn't have lost last night against Minnesota. It was a major game to win since they're the worst team in the Western Conference. Two deflections off our own defensemen in one game resulting in goals; this seems to be a theme for the Leafs this season. I feel as though the only reason one didn't go off Komisarek's helmet or shin pads is that he went off in the middle of the first period from an injury. That was really bad luck, forcing the other 5 defensemen to play extra minutes.

What truly broke the backs of the Toronto Maple Leafs last night was a bad coaching decision by Ron Wilson right before Koivu scored to make the game 3-1 nearing the end of the 2nd period. The Leafs had been hemmed into their end for a while, with Schenn and Finger being on the ice for well over a minute. Finger, with his last gasp of energy whipped the puck down the ice and was as a result called for icing. It was right here that Wilson faced the decision to either call a time-out and give Schenn and Finger a break or to let them fend for themselves. He chose the latter. Right off the draw, Schenn was battling in the corner to the right of Gustavsson and lost because of fatigue. Then, out of exhaustion Schenn lolygaged on his way to the front of the net while Finger went to fight for the puck on the left side of Gustavsson. This left Koivu wide open in front to shove the puck into the back of the net. Wilson should know that Schenn has been struggling this year and an exhausted second-year defensemen would not be good in that situation.

This goal made it a 2 goal deficit, which has been a back-breaker for the Maple Leafs this year and reminded me of their play at the beginning of the year. Thankfully however, we have Phil Kessel to at least pull us up by the bootstraps and fight on, scoring late in the third to make the game 4-2. To put the bad-tasting cherry on the not-so-awesome sundae that was this game, Owen Nolan scored a shorthanded empty net goal to make the game 5-2 with 3 seconds left on the clock.

This game was a pretty major loss because the next team the Leafs play is the Chicago Blackhawks. They are, to be put bluntly, better than the Leafs especially now that they have Toews back from injury. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Toskala gets put in net after a couple games off watching Gustavsson show him up. The Monster has had several games to start in a row, including two back to back last weekend.

This game against Chicago will be a major test for the Leafs as it's the first game against a top-8 team-in-their respective-conference team since their loss to the Dallas Stars. With offensive forces like Toews, Kane, Versteeg etc., the Leafs will have to dig deep defensively and keep Kessel scoring.

Let's pray for 'em.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Inglewood Jacks

I heard this in the background of the Leafs-Red Wings game last night. Last year, my own hockey team named ourselves the "Inglewood Jacks" after this and I guess the video is played at Wings games because of Chelios. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Red Wings vs. Leafs - Post Win Game

Last night was the second win of the Leafs' young season and unfortunately, it was the first game I couldn't watch due to my own hockey game. However, after quite a bit of statistical analysis and reading about last night's game there are several themes that came up.

First of all, there was a general consensus among Leafs bloggers that Beauchemin was a problem last night especially after he put the Leafs on the penalty kill in the last minute of the game and forced Gustavsson to be spectacular, stealing the win. This is discouraging since he was on the ice for 23 minutes of the game while Kaberle held to 21 compared to his intense numbers the game before. Thankfully though, Komisarek was finally the defensive defenseman Leafs Nation has been waiting on this season.

As of last night, our two lousiest defensemen are Luke Schenn and Francois Beauchemin. I've heard some Leafs fans talk about sending Luke Schenn to the Marlies so he can regroup. Although he hasn't been playing his best hockey with the Leafs this year, that would be a terrible idea. No matter how he plays, he still plays better than Exelby on a consistent basis and while Van Ryn is injured, he is staying with the Leafs. He has great positional vision and can hit like Exelby without his mental lapses. If Finger is in our line up, Exelby is our 7th defenseman and that's how it should remain.

Moving on, Gustavsson is beginning to show himself as a statistically apt NHL starting goaltender, with 2.84GAA and a .908 save percentage. On a team with the record that the Leafs have right now, I'm very happy with Burke's offseason acquisition of the Monster. In addition, he's keeping Toskala juggling waterbottles on the bench which is always a plus. Maybe Burke should try to get Vancouver to trade Raycroft back to us for Toskala? No? Worth a shot.

Offensively, both Blake and Mitchell scored. Looks like we don't need to find a player to move it to Kessel, they'll just do it themselves. Plus, with the speed of that first line, defensemen will be on their heels every rush our first line makes. Once the Leafs set up in the offensive zone, Kaberle as one of the elite puck-moving defensemen in the League can feed Kessel the puck at the side of the net.

I'm a little worried about playing the Red Wings tonight after falling to a 2-0 deficit to Carolina, the worst team in the League. The Red Wings, no matter how much of a rough season they're having, is always a tough game. Our defensive defensemen have to have an incredibly strong game blocking as many pucks as possible and keeping it in the offensive zone for the majority of the game. I smell Kessel's first goal coming tonight assisted by Kaberle. It's going to happen, or at least I hope it does.

Good luck Buds and Go Leafs Go!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Exelby got Fingered

Since everyone has been talking about who should be in the line-up for Kessel, I decided to switch it up and talk about Finger. Plus, I already game my opinion

Tonight's game against the Hurricanes is exactly what the Leafs need right now. Carolina's the only team in the league that are having as much of a struggle getting wins as the Leafs. Wilson's hoping that his changes in the line-up are going to prove to be the difference between another overtime loss and a notch in the win column. However, these changes really aren't that significant in any way other than salary. The Leafs big hitting defenseman Exelby is sitting in the stands tonight while Finger is getting the start. Finger, sitting at 3.5 million dollars a season seems like a waste, playing only 4 games this far this season with one assist and a terrible -6.

Comparing Exelby to Finger, there are several variables that have to be looked at. First of all we have to remember the formula that Burke is going for when teams come to play the Leafs. Leafs are an intimidation team - when players come to Toronto, they should be scared to step onto the ice. With additions of Colton Orr, Mike Komisarek and Wayne Primeau this offseason, Exelby was another signing that would fit in perfectly. Jeff Finger, sitting at 6'1 is not a big hitter compared to Garnet Exelby, who's name alone strikes fear into my heart.

However, Finger does bring smart hockey to the Leafs third defensive pairing with Luke Schenn. That partnership is one that Wilson can throw on the ice with confidence of defensive strength. Exelby can't play positional hockey. For the majority of the game he's looking around trying to find that big hit and is willing to leave his post to make it. Finger, who doesn't shy away from the mess in front of the net, is stronger offensively and is an all around good hockey player. Not great, but a defenseman who can get the job done when called upon.

So with Exelby out of the line up, look for Orr to be put on more for intimidation's sake. Finger is strong on the puck and has a pretty nice shot from the point. Exelby can't play his position but can make punishing hits. Finger is paid 3.5 million a year. Exelby, at 1.7 million a year, is more 'bang' for Burke's buck... get it?

I think the move is smart. Since the Leafs are looking for their second win and can't afford bad positional play that could lead to a goal, having Exelby on the point could lead to some problems. Let's hope this change, along with Mitchell for Stajan, will lead to another Leafs win.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our Last Chance - So Close Yet So Far

We all can remember that tying goal. We can all remember that overtime loss. Since we're meeting the Hurricanes this Friday, I thought I'd remind us all what they did to us.
Payback time, let's pass them in the standings!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4th - Tampa Post Game

Last night's game against Tampa Bay was Kessel's debut, and boy was the game a disappointment. The Leafs did a lot of things right, but once again overtime proved to be their kryptonite. Kessel was a star last night with 10 shots on goal. Yet he still was held off the scoresheet and left the game a -1.

Leafs Nation held their breath after watching Ohlund's devastating hit on Kessel early on in the game, which sent him to the dressing room temporarily. The hit obviously didn't affect his game, as he went out the next shift and was just as effective. However, I do have a critique of Wilson that I touched on yesterday and have to talk about again today. Stajan is not a first line center and cannot keep up with the other two. I am not denying the fact that Stajan is highly skilled and has a desire to win, but he just can't keep up with Kessel and Blake on that first line.

Once again Kulemin did not get it done yesterday, having many chances to score without any finish. Sending him down to play with the Marlies would open up some room for Bozak whose speed, passing and vision would be paramount to Kessel and Blake's goal production. Although Stajan can move the puck, he would be more effective with players his speed and caliber.

Overall last night was an exciting game to watch with a disappointing finish. The Leafs outshot the Bolts, they kept Stamkos off the scoresheet and for only the 3rd time this season kept the opposing team scoreless on the power play. Still however, the defense was sloppy in the defensive zone. Gustavsson played yet another fantastic games with outstanding lateral movement but is still struggling with rebound control. It is up to the defensemen to clear those rebounds out from in front of the net, which was not being done last night. Thankfully the Bolts were held to only one goal in regulation but that is only because a good defense is a better offense.

What separates the Leafs last night from the Leafs in mid-October is the amount of play that took place in the offensive zone. The Leafs have finally been able to get the puck down low in the offensive zone and set up. This is largely because of the speed of John Mitchell, Jason Blake and Phil Kessel. If the Leafs continue to set up deep in the offensive zone, the other team will be forced to take penalties like Tampa Bay did last night. It's painful to watch Leafs lose night after night but even the biggest Habs fan cannot deny the improvement in the Leafs play. Soon, if they improve their play in their defensive zone by being more attentive to detail in front of the net they make take an overtime win or even a couple in regulation.

The Leafs really need to take advantage of their simpler schedule this month, with games against Tampa, Minnesota, Carolina, Florida and the Islanders. Other than the Capitals and Chicago, every team the Leafs play in November are possible to beat. Even the 2009-10 Red Wings and the struggling Calgary Flames.

Blog RSS/Atom Feed Aggregator and Syndicate

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3rd, Toronto vs. Tampa Bay

The biggest news in Leafs Nation today is the starting of Kessel in the Toronto line up. At yesterday's practice, Wilson was using the following lines:

Jason Blake - Matt Stajan- Phil Kessel
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Niklas Hagman - John Mitchell - Lee Stempniak
Colton Orr - Rickard Wallin - Wayne Primeau

Tomas Kaberle - Francois Beauchemin
Mike Komisarek - Ian White
Luke Schenn - Garnet Exelby

Finally, Wilson has split up Kaberle and Komisarek, putting the defensive sieve Komisarek (team worst -9) with offensive Ian White (+2). This finally takes Komisarek off the top line and inherently diminishes his minutes on the ice. That way, he's penalized for his bad play, takes a bit of expectations off of him and allows him to regroup as a defensive force.

The problem Wilson faces with the introduction of Kessel is finding a player that can not only keep up with his speed, but can also feed him the passes that Savard was able to feed him all last year. RIght now, he's given him Matt Stajan, who last year had 40 assists compared to Savard's 63. However, we have to consider the line that Stajan was on compared to Krejci - Savard - Kessel.

The major problem I have with Wilson's forward choices is that he has a couple players in the minors that have the capability to be that player for Kessel. Bozak has the speed, vision and passing that is necessary to get Kessel going. In only one game played this year in the big leagues, Bozak got one assist. Stalberg on the other hand, needs to regain the confidence that he had coming out of the pre-season before Anton Volchenkov's bone-crunching hit in Toronto's first game against Ottawa. The question is, who should Bozak replace in the line-up? That's a no-brainer. If Orr and Primeau are needed for toughness, then Kulemin should be benched for a while after a mediocre start to the season.

This would be my line-up
1)Blake - Bozak - Kessel
2) Hagman - Stajan - Stempniak
3) Ponikorovsky - Mitchell - Wallin
4) Orr - Grabovski - Primeau

1) Bozak and Blake can match the speed of Kessel. Bozak has been covered above, but Blake can follow up on Kessel's rebounds, being an ex-40 goal scorer
2) Stajan put with two ex-25+scorers that can shoot the puck gives Stajan some offensive options to pass to. We as Leafs fans must remember that Stajan does not have the adequate skill to be a number 1 center man and gives him his correct placement as a number 2. Bozak, for lack of a better fit, can compete with the speed of a number 1 line.
3) This line-up gives Mitchell an offensive minded finisher as a linemate with Poni and still has Wallin as a defensive player. Its a line 3 that gives Wilson confidence to send them out in both offensive and defensive scenarios (Ponikarovsky being +5) so lines 1 and 2 can recover from fatigue.
4) This gives Grabovski some protection as a weaker player himself, and gives him more time with the puck. If the worry is about Grabovski's ice-time, he can be placed on the powerplay to have more of an offensive chance.

The Leafs are playing a weaker team tonight and as long as Stamkos, with 11G and 5A in 12GP can be covered by Exelby, Schenn and Komisarek, the Lightning offense can be overcome. If all goes right, the Leafs can come out on top and get that 2nd win that has eluded us for 3 post-regulation loses.

Intro to Bone's Bud Blog

I've been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since I can remember. I've never lived through a cup, I missed Mahovolich, Sitler, Horton, Salming, and Keon. Instead, I was brought up watching Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, Dave Andreychuck, and the brief time the Leafs had Brian Leech and Ron Francis under contract.
I've had a short time as a fan of the team in comparison to many others in Leafs Nation, but what separates this blog from the crowd is my location in the heart of Habs territory. I can see the bias that I hold, which gives me the ability to step back and observe the Leafs in relation to the rest of the NHL.
Before I start, I have to list my biases as a Leafs fan and fans of specific players in the league.

1) Steven Stamkos - I have been following Stamkos since he played for the Markham Waxers in the OMHA. I heard about him from one of my team mates while I played in Toronto and started following the team on a regular basis. I consider the Tampa Bay Lightning my "second team" but that is mostly because of my like for Stamkos and his ability as an all around hockey player.

2) As a hockey player myself, I play a very different style of hockey from Stamkos. I am not at all an all around player but am myself solely an offensive-minded grinder. However, since I've struggled with that problem all my hockey career as a defensive sieve, I for that reason watch hockey focusing on the structure of a defensive breakout and a team's penalty kill. So, my bias is that I love defensive teams. Ron Wilson excited me when he was brought into the administration because of his penalty kill with San Jose that ended up at 1st in the league.

3) Along with Stamkos, I'm a sucker for prospects. Although it's fun to watch veterans like Iginla or Scott Niedermayer, I become enthralled by the younger players such as Crosby, the Staals, Tavares, Hedman and Duchene.

4) In the battle between Ovechkin and Crosby, I'm a Crosby man. What I have against Ovechkin is mainly his late hits and his long shifts. I enjoy his off-ice antics and love his ability to put the puck in the net. I deny the fact that Ovechkin is the bigger hitter that many call him, because most of his hits are either finishing his check or late hits. Finishing one's check may be part of the game, but when that is the large majority of the hits a player makes, their defensive awareness has to be looked at more closely.

5) I have a large bias towards Canadian players as opposed to European players. This is based on the more hitting-prone, fighting-in-the-corners style of Hockey.